The Gaultier Story: Aspects of Waterford’s Maritime Barony

The Gaultier Story:   Aspects of Waterford’s Maritime Barony consists of 21 chapters on different aspects of the Barony of Gaultier

History, Geology, Archaeology, Townlands, Education, Religion, Pilots, Lifeboat, New Geneva and Geneva Barracks, Passage East, Placenames, Fishing, Farming, Architecture, Ecology, Ballygunner, A 19th century Gaultier Farm,  Sports, A sense of Place are the chapter subjects that make up its close to 300 pages. 

 Its 14 writers are well placed to bring you an insider’s knowledge and intimacy with their subject area – David Carroll, Bill Shephard, Ben Spillane,  Andrew Doherty, Sylvester O’Muirí, Jim Hegarty, Jack Burtcheall,  John Burke, Rosemary Ryall, Eugene Broderick, Fintan Walsh, Julian Walton, Martin McShea, Roy Dooney, Michael Farrell and Ray McGrath, Editor.

The Gaultier Story: Aspects of Waterford’s Maritime Barony comes in hardback limited edition and softcover. The hardback version is priced at €29.90 and the softcover is priced at €19.90. 

Both versions can be pre-ordered by emailing the Society at thegaultierstory@gmail.com

Reimagining Henry II’s route to Waterford Oct 1171

After a busy month of activities, I was relieved when Damien McLellan offered a guest blog arising from last week’s two-day event exploring the arrival of Henry II at Passage East in 1171 – 850 years ago this year. Damien, like so many others who attended, was buzzing with questions and speculation, and his enthusiasm led to today’s blog entry. I think you will enjoy the virtual journey. Over to Damien.

We know for a fact that King Henry 11 of England arrived in Waterford Harbour on October 17th, 1171, and that on the following day, October 18th, 1171, together with a huge army of knights and soldiers, he journeyed to Waterford City to conclude what we now know as the Norman Invasion.

Last week, on Saturday, October 23rd, Barony of Gaultier Historical Society organised a fully booked public event in Passage East to mark this internationally significant event. An absorbed audience (Covid compliant, of course) heard from a distinguished panel of experts fascinating opinions, figures and facts about those two extraordinary days and subsequent events. The next morning, Sunday October 24th, about 30 of us walked from Passage East to Waterford City on the route believed to have been taken by King Henry and his army. We were welcomed at the Bishop’s Palace by Cllr. Joe Kelly current Mayor of the City and County of Waterford.

Michael Farrell, Chair of the Barony of Gaultier Historical Society leads off the walk

What struck me was the lack of consensus among experts and locals about exactly where the landing took place and about the route taken to the city. I have for long been nurturing my own theories about both issues and I am grateful to Andrew Doherty for giving me the space here to share them and for his skill in assembling the maps and photographs needed to support them.

If as many as 400 ships were needed to carry the men, horses and considerable supplies, a substantial safe landing area was required. I understand that ships of the time arriving in Waterford Harbour, there being no ports then, would not be able to land on a safe beach until close to Crooke on Passage Strand.

The strand leading downriver from Passage East towards Crooke and Woodstown

It makes sense to assume that the forward party would have signal fires ready to light at the first sight of the fleet to guide them onto the safe landing area. Each ship would have to run up on the strand on the incoming tide until all 400, propped and secured, stretched along the strand from Crooke to Passage East, nearly a mile of ships. So, where did Henry 11 himself land, Crooke or Passage or in-between?  The answer must be where his ship landed in what could have been a melee of ships manoeuvring for position and avoiding collisions.

The landing in 1066 of William the Conqueror’s army at Pevensey in Sussex. Except for the dramatic sea, and if ships had not significantly evolved over the intervening years, this may have been something like the scene on Passage Strand on October 18th, 1171. Painting by Charles Edward Dixon (1910) sourced from https://mercedesrochelle.com/wordpress/?p=390
Although this is an image of preparation for departure to the Battle of Hastings, I find it useful in terms of the organisation, and I think it may help get our minds around the estimated 400 ships at Passage and Crooke and the spectacle it would have made. (Andrew) Accessed from https://www.english-heritage.org.uk/

Standing and looking round today on the breakwater at Passage East it is obvious that here must have been the mustering area, because of the space available. Here the vast army may have camped for the night, with guards strung all down the strand towards Crooke to watch over the ships. It is fun to speculate that where the present children’s playground is, perhaps the king’s royal tent was pitched and where reputedly the most powerful man in the world at that time had his first night’s sleep in Ireland.

Patrick C Power (1990) also wondered whether “The people of Waterford and especially the merchants may have heard of how a great war-king travelled and equipped his army and retainers and here in front of their very eyes was a great display of power and wealth on the road from Passage to the city of Waterford the like of which they had never seen” (p.20). But which road from Passage?   

Last Sunday we walked up to the church at Crooke to take a right turn at the school and the traditional route to Waterford. My walking companion, Michael Fewer, and I, impatient to be walking, had gone ahead and somehow missed Strongbow’s Bridge (but not Jack Meade’s!). I enjoyed the walk, but all the time sensed (and possibly nagged Michael) that it was not the historic route.

I now believe that it goes up the street known as The Brookside (in the centre of Passage East), becomes the Wet Hill after St Anne’s Well, reaching the present main road opposite Brook Villa, now an abandoned farm. Then into the city via Cowsheen Bridge, Strongbow’s Bridge (avoiding the marshy area) and on to Halfway House.

The Brookside, Passage East. Is this street part of the footprint of the route?
The Wet Hill, and the Well (St Anne’s Well) beyond which the path is overgrown
Brooke Villa (aka Murray’s Farm)

The path today is impenetrable after the Well. But I also started down from the top and found what I fancied was a drove road, very familiar to me from Galicia, and seemingly marked as a wide road on the 1925 OS Edition.

The Drove Road?

Michael Fewer had wondered aloud on the walk how all the produce and livestock that came across the river from Wexford in medieval times got to Waterford. Perhaps up this lost road?

This week I talked to a local man, born in Passage, who remembered from his childhood the farmers who lived in Brook Villa, known as Murray’s Farm, using a horse and cart on this same road to collect coal from the Quay in Passage. Incidentally, he also said it was a family tradition that King Henry 11 had taken this road to Waterford. And I understand that the late Cllr John Carey had a passionate interest in having the Wet Hill reopened and restored to how he remembered it as a boy.

A map of the area from the OSI historic series (Historic 25″) shows a very clear roadway leading up from the village, through the valley between Passage Hill and Carraickcannuigh (large arrow points to this. It turns rights at Murray’s and then veers left towards Knockroe from where there is almost a straight run to Strongbow’s Bridge. For a clearer image and to view the entire roadway click into https://webapps.geohive.ie/mapviewer/index.html

Therefore, it does seem logical to me that as this road was in plain sight of where the army was mustered and if it was as negotiable then as it was in living memory, why would King Henry, and before him Strongbow, not use it?

If I can impose on Andrew’s space a little longer, I would like to address the popular belief that the origin of the phrase ‘By hook or by crooke’ is attributable to Oliver Cromwell (it came up at the panel discussion). According to Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1990) it comes from the medieval manorial custom “which authorised tenants to take as much firewood as could be reached down by a shepherd’s crook and cut down with a bill-hook”. He offers a line from Edmund Spenser’ s The Fairie Queen, which was published in 1590, 9 years before Cromwell was born: “In hope her to attain by hooke or crooke”.

Finally, I offer these thoughts on the landing and journey to Waterford of Henry 11 in the hope that they might inspire others much more learned than me in these matters to continue this research and perhaps result in informative plaques being erected at some of the key sites mentioned.

Ivor H Evans (Ed) (1990) Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable London: Cassell

Patrick C Power (1990) History of Waterford City and County Cork & Dublin: The Mercier Press

A new book will be launched in the coming weeks celebrating some of the historical aspects of the Barony of Gaultier. For more information and to reserve a copy you can email thegaultierstory@gmail.com

I want to thank Damien for his thoughts on this. I have written my own theory on it previously. What struck me about last weekends successful gathering was the interest, the searching questions and the many remaining areas we have yet to fill in about the arrival of Henry II and the changes it meant for the locality as well as the country. Why Passage? Did any of the vessels sail to Waterford city? Is there any substance to a story I shared before of a chain based defence of the city? What kind of ships were used? (My own reading suggests that the design of horse transport had moved on and the Tarida were being employed carrying up to 30 horses). And so many more. Hopefully last weekend was only the start of what might be a regular event. The Barony of Gaultier Historical Society deserves great recognition for their efforts in these challenging times of Covid and the financial pinch this creates for voluntary committees such as our own.

Arming the IRA – BGHS Talk

Arming the IRA – Running guns into Waterford Harbour 1921

By early summer of 1921, the IRA was facing a crisis in its conflict with British forces – a severe shortage of arms and ammunition.  This shortage was threatening to curtail operations by the active units and to hinder plans to extend the conflict to other, less active areas.  In June 1921 the combined Waterford Brigades had a rollcall of 232 officers and 2,044 men.  The total numbers of arms available to them was 56 rifles and 45 revolvers. Tom Barry estimated that there were only about 100 rifles available to his men in the Cork No. 3 Brigade, the most successful in the country, and it was this shortage of weapons that limited his operations, not a shortage of volunteers. It was the same in every other part of the country – weapons not men were the key factor.  This shortage was getting worse as British forces became more successful at locating and seizing arms dumps.  It is no wonder then that the thoughts of Michael Collins and other members of the IRA GHQ staff turned to the possibility of a large-scale operation that would bring in hundreds of weapons and transform the military situation. Three such operations were planned, from America, from Italy and from Germany. Only the one from Germany was successful. It landed arms in Waterford Harbour in November 1921.

Join us next Thursday 28th October in the Woodlands Hotel for this fascinating lecture

In the comings weeks I hope to have a guest blog on the story from Conor Donegan. If time allows I also hope to do a piece on some research I have done into the specific location of the arms landing.

Mine sweeping the harbour – Dunmore 1917

A new method of warfare in WWI was the use submarines in deploying mines.  Initially the presence of these explosives would only be known when an unfortunate ship stumbled upon them. The mine laying subs commenced with the UC I type in 1914 carrying a payload of 12 mines with a limited range.  This was improved on in 1916 with UC II class subs, considered the most successful.  They had an increased payload of 18 mines, faster speed and an extended reach.  

The mines were deployed from underwater.  Each mine dropped to the seabed from a chute.  A dis-solvable plug which reacted with seawater allowed the sub to move away a safe distance before it released a mechanism to allow the mine to float clear of its anchor weight and it rose to a pre-set distance on a cable. The distance was calculated to be always underwater, so invisible, but high enough to strike a ships hull.
An egg mine sketch with the release mechanism

To counter the threat ordinary fishing boats and fishermen were recruited under the Royal Navy Minesweeping Reserve. With some basic training they were redeployed to various ports and waterways.  Many were steel built steam drifters of 2-300 tons and up to 140 foot long.  The skipper and crew were not under naval discipline or expected to wear a uniform.  Their orders came from the Navy.

The method used initially was crude and risky. Two ships with a sunken cable strung between them scoured the channels in order to keep them clear for shipping. The risk was that ships needed to maintain a steady drag as any deviation might allow a snared mine to travel along the cable and strike one of the towing vessels.  By 1916 the method was improved with a kite system which allowed the cable to be steadier, and to ensure that any travelling mines exploded some distance from the ships. Serrated cables were also introduced, but these tended to be only effective with more powerful ships. 
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There was two techniques for dealing with mines.  They could be towed and if their anchoring cables snapped the mine which floated to the surface could be destroyed by gun fire.  Alternatively the snared mine could be towed into shallow water where it floated onto the surface and could then be dealt with.  Unfortunately steam trawlers for fishing were not built with military purposes in mind, and so unlike naval purpose built vessels with double hulls, they were more susceptible to underwater explosions.

City of York, a typical steam trawler of the time

During WWI 726 vessels were employed in mine sweeping and over 250 of them were lost, 214 to mines.  I have not yet come across any details of their operations in Dunmore or the harbour.  But we saw previously how its speculated they may have played a role in luring UC-44 to her doom in Dunmore East.  Two Mine Sweepers that we know of were lost off Dunmore.

The first was HMT Loch Eye, a steam trawler built by the Torry shipbuilders of Aberdeen.  She was built for a local company, the Empire Steam Fishing Company Ltd.  She was requisitioned by the Royal Navy for mine sweeping duties in September 1916.  On April 20th 1917 while operating off Dunmore East she struck a mine and sank with the loss of seven lives.  
These were:

ANDERSON, Thomas 36yrs, Engineman
BAXTER, Albert, Trimmer
FARQUHAR, George, Engineman
KEECH, Reginald 16yrs, Ordinary Seaman
MILNE, Frederick J 26yrs, Trimmer, 

NIGHTINGALE, Willie J, Ordinary Seaman
PIRRIE, Robert F 36yrs, Deck Hand
The mine had been laid by UC-33 which was rammed and sank in the following September.  All but one crew of the 28 aboard were killed.

In July another mine-sweeping vessel was lost, the HMT George Milburn.   From what I have read it appears she was on escort duty, en route from Cobh to Milford Haven.  She struck a mine off Dunmore on Thursday July 12th and sank with the loss of 11 lives.

These were:
ANDREWS, William R, Engineman,
BATEMAN, Michael 30yrs, Deck Hand
BLAKE, Reuben J, Deck Hand
BURNETT, George S D K 42yrs, Trimmer
FORREST, William 39yrs, Engineman,
FYFE, Thomas.  27yrs, Deck Hand 
LEES, Robert 19yrs, Deck Hand
LUCAS, George Henry 45yrs Skipper
MCNICHOL, John 32yrs, Leading Seaman
RITCHIE, John AM, 32yrs, Second Hand
SPINK, James F 40yrs, Deck Hand

The mine she struck had been laid by UC-42, which was lost in Cork Harbour in September, with the death of all her crew.
The crews of both trawlers and UC-42 remembered in
Templetown graveyard, Co Wexford
photo via Michael Farrell BGHS

The events around Dunmore East in 1917 will be remembered this weekend when The Barony of Gaultier Historical Society (BGHS) under the chairmanship of Michael Farrell will host an event entitled Friend and Foe.  It sets out to shine a light on these events and bring, if you will pardon an obvious pun, more information to the surface.  It starts this evening with a walk at 4pm looking at the life and times of Dunmore harbour 100 years ago.  A full list of events are available on the BGHS blog page.

Much of the information used today was drawn from Jim Crossley’s book The Hidden Threat, The Royal Naval Minesweeping Reserve in WWI . 2011 Pen & Sword Maritme. Barnsley.  Thanks to Frank Murphy for providing me with the book.

I publish a blog each Friday.  If you like this piece or have an interest in the local history or maritime heritage of Waterford harbour and environs you can email me at russianside@gmail.com to receive the blog every week.

My Facebook and Twitter pages are more contemporary and reflect not just heritage 

and history but the daily happenings in our beautiful harbour:  

F https://www.facebook.com/whtidesntales  T https://twitter.com/tidesntales

Ice – Waterford’s forgotten trade

There’s nothing as fickle as a market I guess. Products that go from boom to bust in a few short years, or less today when we think of technology.  In the past Waterford, along with many other ports traded in a commodity that was considered an essential for the food industry, Ice.  It was a market that reigned for less that sixty years but there are echoes of it in the harbour still.
My interest in Ice stemmed from finding the Faithlegg Ice House  as a child. This old structure was probably built at the same time as Faithlegg House, 1783, and used by the Boltons for impressing party guests during the summer with cooled drinks, sorbets and ices at a time when it was impossible for most people except in winter. It could also store meat, poultry and fish. Such Ice House designs dated from the 16th C at least and were based on the reality that Ice, once gathered into a cool, dry spot, compacted together and allowing for the run off to drain away below, would keep for months or even years.
Entrance chamber to Faithlegg Ice house
Ice House on Golf Course of Faithlegg House

The other Ice House in the area, was about a mile away, via an old roadway that ran through Faithlegg to Ballycanvan.  You crossed the now removed bridge at Faithlegg Pill into Ballycanvan and down to Jack Meades via the woodlands road. This is a commercially sized Ice House and even today is an impressive structure.

No one seems to know the date it was built. I find it interesting that when travel writer and social commentator Arthur Young visited in 1796 and again in 1798 that he failed to mention it, suggesting it is a later build. Its location is to protect it from the sun, and it has a double wall to the south west which would have further insulated it,  The original entry point was nearer the roof, the current access point is a more modern feature,  Some have suggested it served a similar function to its smaller neighbour, providing for the several big houses in the locality such as Ballycanvan, Mount Druid, Brook Lodge, Blenheim etc.

A third example is an “Ice Box” which Pat Murphy from Cheekpoint helped me locate recently.  The box is a stone and mortar circular structure about 15ft diameter.  Access was via the roof and it is built into the western bank of the river Barrow on the Wexford side, above Great Island. Pat could remember the name clearly and also stories of the paddle steamer stopping in the river below it, and boxes of iced salmon being removed to the ship for transport to New Ross and, he presumed, export.

Ceiling doorway to the Icebox
Icebox, hidden away in the bank of the River Barrow

The Ice used in such structures was originally gathered from frozen streams, but at the time that Faithlegg was built a new technique had emerged.  Due to the enormous resources, particularly man power, such houses had, it was a practice to flood a flat area of land close to a stream during a cold snap. I’ve found what I imagine to be the Faithlegg ice field below the current Park Rangers ground only recently. Unfortunately none of the older residents can confirm the theory however. Such streams and flat fields are features of the other sites too.

In America a new business emerged in the early 1800’s which became known as the Ice trade and the commodity had extended to Norway by the 1850’s.  American Ice had made its way to Britain but was not considered commercially viable, the merchants preferring the locally sourced material, despite its poorer quality. However a rise in temperatures seems to have impacted the home grown trade, and initially speculator merchants travelled northwards to source ice, but it really picked up once the Norwegians saw the potential. Ice was cut into blocks in Norway and transported to Ireland and throughout Europe. The blocks were put aboard ships, insulated with saw dust, to prevent fusing together, and then transported to ports. Merchants tended to store the ice in purpose built buildings or basements and then disperse it as required.

I had speculated as such some years back at a Barony of Gaultier Historical Society talk that I gave in the fishing industry of the harbour.  It came as a relief to me thereafter when Tommy Deegan on the Waterford History Group facebook page posted the following:
“In Jan. 1864 Messrs. O’Meara and Brennan owners of a large warehouse in Bridge St. purchased 100 tons of ice from a Scandinavian ship and reloaded the ship with cattle fodder. They covered the ice with a large quantity of sawdust in the warehouse, which preserved the ice until summer when it could be sold at a large profit.”

Subsequently I have discovered that newspapers of the time are full of ads and other coverage of the trade by merchants and fish mongers in cities such as Dublin, Belfast and Cork. Their businesses were forced to close at the start of WWI when the sea trade was curtailed.  After the war the new technology of refrigeration was the issue and soon the trade would be consigned to history.  Only echos now remain in the harbour, but the echoes are significant, especially to the curious.

Postscript:  The Barony Echo, newsletter of the Barony of Gaultier Historical Society carries a brief mention of ships arriving to Passage East from Nova Scotia carrying Ice for the cellars of Waterford in their most recent edition.

Since publication a new initiative in Lismore Co Waterford has come to my attention.  I was aware of the big house Ice House at Lismore  but not two commercial sized houses under one roof on the Fermoy road, Two pieces here:  A blog from Waterford in Your Pocket: http://www.waterfordinyourpocket.com/lismore-ice-houses-to-be-preserved/ And a press piece from the Examiner: http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/19th-century-ice-houses-to-be-preserved-390925.html

I publish a blog each Friday.  If you like this piece or have an interest in the local history or maritime heritage of Waterford harbour and environs you can email me at russianside@gmail.com to receive the blog every week.
My Facebook and Twitter pages are more contemporary and reflect not just heritage 
and history but the daily happenings in our beautiful harbour:  
F https://www.facebook.com/whtidesntales  T https://twitter.com/tidesntales
Thanks to Pat Murphy and Liam Hartley for their help with this piece.  Also Tommy Deegan on the Waterford History Group.
Ref: Buxham. T.   Icehouses.  2008.  Shire Publications.  Buckinghamshire.